I do not play football games, nor do I play football, I don’t even watch it! – my history of playing football video games includes several games of Actua Soccer back in 1995 on the original PlayStation and three games of PES 2009 – you may presume that my time with PES 2009 can be noted as ‘experience’ however as I spent less time trying to participate in The Beautiful Game and more time trying to hack out my opponents shin bones with some extremely violent tackles like a sporty version of Mortal Kombat – I think we should probably leave that particular experience to one side, shall we?

So who better to give an impartial, unbiased opinion of one of the ‘Big Two’ football games of the industry – PES 2012. Well, probably anybody else but never mind…

PES 2012

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is the latest in a long list of other seemingly identical football games published by Konami every year to counterbalance the release of EA’s equally identical release crusade with their flagship football game – Fédération Internationale de Football Association – also known as FIFA.

I’m told by my more football-savvy friends that the PES series is the more hardcore and serious choice for football fans whereas the FIFA series is the more casual and relaxed alternative – this is no more evident than when I loaded up PES 2012 through my OnLive Microconsole and was presented with no less than four in depth menus to set up my “PES Profile” before I actually got to the main menu to navigate to a further menu in order to play a game of football – Konami aren’t going to make this easy, are they?

Playing any football game has always held a certain amount of mystery to me. Like I said, I don’t really know anything about football so rules such as the Offside Rule and where you can and cannot tackle people are usually lost on me. That being said whilst playing PES 2012 I did have fun, the game itself handled very well – even through the OnLive system.

PES 2012

Speaking on OnLive, I’d like to take a moment to address any potential lag issues that people have in mind. Whist playing PES 2012 I did encounter three specific ‘blurry’ moments due to network issues but there were all contained to menus and were never in-game. This may also have been my own fault because I was using my OnLive Microconsole and two laptops (one of which was uploading videos to YouTube)

Graphically speaking, I am somewhat surprised that the level of details on PES 2012 is not what I was led to believe. Naturally with any video game you take screenshots and trailers with a somewhat large pinch of salt but to see virtually two dimensional crowd ‘cut-outs’ in this current generation of video gaming is disheartening at best. That being said the players’ reactions and expressions were very fluid and believable.

In addition to the standard Friendly and Training modes, PES 2012 also features an interesting Campaign mode, splitting into two separate story arcs:

Master League Mode sees you taking over the managers position of a football club – a concept usually reserved for specific titles such as the Championship Manager series but being given more creative control of the club was a welcome change of pace for me. The game quickly moves from being a hardcore-centric arcade football game to a more drawn out time investment.

PES 2012

Being able to control different aspects such as the finances of the club, player transfers, training etc was enjoyable even for someone who does now follow football – so I can only assume that with greater football knowledge would come greater enjoyment.

The Become a Legend mode however sees you go from the micro-management position of a club owner to controlling a single player on the pitch – trying to make a break into professional football from an underdog youth club.

In a completely different change of pace, you find yourself going from playing the entire team of footballers to a single person, attempting to move with the action and also making space for yourself on the pitch amidst opposing players.

I cannot say that PES 2012 isn’t a fun game, it’s compelling enough to make me continue playing through the matches and the depth added by the Master League and Become a Legend modes almost guarantee that you’ll want to play this more than once.

PES 2012

Couple that with the natural multiplayer aspect of the genre and you will have some great times playing this in a group. Unfortunately for Konami – PES 2012 feels unfinished and very rough around the edges, there would be numerous occasions when the players would not full make contact with either the ball or the opposing player but the game decided that the collision should happen anyway.

Taking a step back for a moment and looking at the bigger picture it appears that the previous iterations of both PES and FIFA are mealy collections of software patches, minor upgrades to dynamics and slight tweaks to the gameplay rather than a completely traditional sequel which only appears to happen once every few years.

It appears that both EA and Konami have forced each other into a difficult corner – they are now forced to release a ‘new’ football game each year unless they miss out on the football gamer demographic for that specific year – providing end consumers with a usually lacklustre product that could have been replicated with a simple online patch rather than a boxed release. Only the video gaming equivalent of the Gneva Convention would prevent this practise from continuing on its current course – where both parties agreed to only release boxed releases of their respective game once ever two or three years and provided quick, cheap, effective and most importantly – removable – software fixes in the intermediary times between these releases.

Sadly, that’s not likely to happen…

In conclusion then, PES 2012 is a good game, it got a non-football gamer like me to sit for a number of hours and play a pure, hardcore football game, including the different aspects of club management – I might still be confused by the offside rule but I did enjoy playing PES 2012.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Cover Art